By Melissa Donovan
The nature of retail is changing. Where stores once debuted lines on a seasonal basis, capsule collections and shorter runs are creating smaller sales cycles. Point of sale and point of purchase graphics are forced to update frequently. Applications that support easy change outs like silicone edge graphic frames, floor graphics, and window graphics are popular.
Window graphics are one of the first ways a potential buyer is encouraged to enter a store. For shorter term promotions, retail stores need an easy-to-use material installed and removed from windows with minimal to no tools. The typical graphic installer in this scenario is an employee with little experience.
To meet these requirements, different grades of printable window film are available. This includes both perforated and unperforated as well adhesive backed or cling-like technology. Determining factors for a short-term, ease of install and removal product include adhesive, material thickness, and air egress technology.
Above: Agfa’s media portfolio includes clear window film for short-term retail graphics.
Defining Short Term
Before diving into which materials are ideal for short-term window graphics in retail environments, it’s important to understand the varying definitions of short term.
According to Gary York, wide format product line manager, Agfa Graphics, short term is considered less than a year, which marries up with the needs of advertising and promotion cycles that typically do not have an impact afterward.
“Durability and removability are two of the most important characteristics to consider when defining a product as short term. Outdoor durability of less than three years and removability of up to one year is how the graphics industry defines short term,” says Bekie Berg, market development specialist, product branding business team, FLEXcon.
Steve Yarbrough, product support specialist, Drytac, considers short term any period under six months.
“In the case of window graphics, everyone might have a different opinion of what is considered short term. Three to six months would be short term for this application,” admits Shaun Jaycox, product specialist, S-One Holdings Corporation.
More specifically, Matt Meyer, president, Plastiprint, defines short term in the lifespan of window graphics as one day to three months.
Matching Sales Cycles
Short-term window media is a must in today’s constantly morphing retail climate. “With the speed of campaign changes, seasonal and mid-seasonal sales, it is becoming more important. As a retailer, you have to attract attention, which is quite easy with frequently changing messages on your windows that are simple to apply and remove,” says René Bourgeois, key account manager, ASLAN, Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG.
Stores are more than just a place to buy an item. “The role of the physical space—the store—has become more experiential than ever before. Stores are becoming a place to socialize and connect,” explains Berg. She provides examples of classes and showrooms where shoppers experience a product before they buy it. This means it is increasingly important for retailers to transform their window areas, which are one of the single largest pieces of advertising space in a retail environment.
A window display is an integral component to luring shoppers into a store. “Short-term window media keeps growing, because it allows retailers and other businesses to highlight time-sensitive promotions while getting the best return on viewership,” shares Joey Heiob, technical service representative, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions.
Short-term graphics are one way to remain competitive with online shopping sites. “Brick-and-mortar retailers are under increasing pressure to capture traffic, which means using every tool available to them, including window graphics,” admits Michelle Kempf, national sales manager, Continental Grafix USA, Inc.
“In the electronic age where messages and information are consumed at a fast pace, you want to have your window signage function in the same manner. Constantly displaying new information about your products is important,” advises Meyer.
Due to constant changes in window graphics “long-term films usually carry a higher price point,” says Laura Reid, VP of marketing, FDC Graphic Films, Inc., so they aren’t as feasible.
Perforated or non-perforated, adhesive backed or cling-like technology are all options for use when it comes to short-term window graphics.
Kempf says cling-like technology was a preferred window material for years, but advances in adhesive and material technology are changing that. “Window perforation has taken over a large segment of the short-term window graphic market due to its inherent bubble-free application properties and ease of use.”
In terms of aesthetics, Dee Barrington-Ford, VP, Contra Vision North America, Inc., points out that perforated materials allow for plenty of natural light—creating an optimal in-store environment for shoppers.
“A majority of short-term window media is now adhesive back because advanced adhesives can be removed cleanly and perform better in changing climates,” suggests Heiob.
According to Brian Biegel, marketing communications specialist, D&K Group, low-tack or repositionable adhesives are sometimes required for windows exposed to harsh, direct sunlight or that experience wide temperature fluctuations.
To fill the requirements of a clean, easy to install, and easy to remove graphic, Darrell Adams, VP, SCITOP-USA LLC, believes a silicone-backed, bubble-free, cling media is still the answer. It is easy to remove without leaving adhesive on the glass or damaging the window tint.
A bonus benefit of cling-like window film material is that if properly stored, like a static cling, it can be reused later on, adds Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation.
Cling-like film is commonly suggested for short-term indoor applications, according to Meyer. But for outdoors, he leans towards a cling or adhesive back depending on the environment, weather exposure, and foot traffic.
“Climate affects the adhesion of materials such as clings. High humidity areas can fog with clings, or also lose their static charge over time, which will cause them to fall down,” cautions Yarbrough.
“When it’s unclear where a sign will be hung, using an electrically charged media that adheres to any clean indoor surface may be appropriate. However, if you know that the sign will be hung on a door or in a high-traffic environment, something with a light repositionable adhesive backing may be the best bet in those situations, suggests Laura Slovensky, channel marketing manager, Nekoosa.
Installed for Novice
Since most—if not all—installers adhering window film in retail have little experience in this area, ease of application and removal are important. Features to look for include specific adhesion chemistries, material thickness, and air egress or bubble-free technology.
“Most of the time it’s a store manager or sales associate installing a window graphic. They receive the graphic from the corporate office with little to no instruction, and the outcome is often less than desirable,” admits Josh Culverhouse, graphic innovations market manager, ORAFOL Americas.
The adhesive scale, according to Meyer, is low-tack removable, microsphere adhesive, standard removable, high-tack removable, and permanent. Certain adhesives are activated when water is applied, whereas others are peel and stick or dry applied.
Media that does not require wet application methods are well suited for novice installers in Slovensky’s opinion. She believes that a media with a removable, repositionable adhesive is ideal for an inexperienced installer.
When store employees are installing the graphics, a low-tack adhesive-backed window media is easier for a novice, according to Berg. With a repositionable adhesive, the material can be repeatedly removed and reapplied before the final bonding onto the glass takes place—providing the installer with much greater flexibility.
Considering removal in regards to adhesion is important. “Removable adhesive has an extremely slow or delayed acclimation period, which becomes more permanent two to three years down the road depending on the formulation. So if the intention is to easily remove the graphic at some point, do your customer a favor and offer them a dependable film with removable adhesive,” advises Culverhouse.
“It’s important to note that even permanent adhesive can be removed, it just takes more effort. Customers considering short-term media are typically looking for something that removes easily—low tack,” adds Jim Halloran, VP sales and marketing, Lintec of America, Inc.
Media options that do not require adhesive—cling-like technologies—also offer repositionability to achieve the ideal appearance as it can be applied, removed, and reapplied. “Cling-like products are usually repositionable and the adhesion technology allows for them to come off easily without leaving residue,” says Cory Jones, associate product manager wide format, GBC & SEAL, ACCO Brands.
The rule of thumb for most applications is that it is easier to install a thicker product as it is more stable and easier to handle. Stiffer, thicker products do not flop over, for example, says York.
A bonus is that thicker materials can cover small imperfections in the application surface, adds Slovensky.
“Thicker window graphics assist with installation and removal. Added thickness and rigidity is especially helpful when positioning large window graphics. Window media with a 4-mil or greater thickness is typically much easier to install than 2-mil products,” explains Biegel.
“A 3-mil and higher moderately stiff face makes it simple to handle and apply the material without wrinkles—even for inexperienced applicators,” recommends Jeffrey Stadelman, marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products.
It may also be a preference issue. “Some prefer thicker material because it is easier to work with, while others like a thinner material because it conforms better to what it is applied to,” suggests Jaycox.
Removal is also easier with a thicker material, as it can be taken off the window without shredding into small pieces, according to Hunter.
Bubble-free technology is a differentiator when a clean install is the goal. “Everyone wants to feel proud of their work, and a novice installer will get frustrated if they have to struggle with removing bubbles,” recommends Slovensky.
With air egress, the media features a liner that imprints channels into the adhesive. These channels allow air to escape easier than standard liners and make install less challenging, explains Berg. She cautions that optically clear window films with air egress liners may impact the clarity of the film after install.
“A dot patterned adhesive allows the air to be evacuated from behind the print by a person with minimal experience, no tools, and no mess. It adheres smoothly to the surface without bubbles or wrinkles,” adds Nate Goodman, product manager, Ritrama Inc.
Bubble-free technology with air egress and dot adhesive technology eliminate the need for a wet install. “They are designed for easy application and removal,” explains Stadelman.
Perforated films in general are easy to install, points out Kempf, as the material inherently provides air egress for bubble-free installation.
Planning on Price
For the print service provider (PSP) offering window graphics for short-term sales cycles the cost of the material ranges.
According to Berg, low-tack adhesive-backed material and cling vinyl are on the lower end of the price range, whereas perforated window films are higher.
“Depending on the material grade, a print provider may pay anywhere from $0.16 to $0.40 a square foot,” says Culverhouse.
York quotes $0.20 per square foot for PVC static cling to $0.74 per square foot for an optically clear PET with a scruff resistance.
Roland’s static cling product averages $0.36 per square foot. Its calendered vinyl with permanent adhesive averages $0.38 per square foot.
Reid says prices range from $0.30 per square foot to $1.25 for clear pressure-sensitive vinyl and $1.00 to $1.50 for perforated window films.
Current window graphic pricing—PSP to the buyer, according to Biegel, may cost up to $10 to $12 per square foot.
Retail trends evolve. To keep pace, retailers must be ready to market products in an efficient, cost-effective manner. One way to do this is with window graphics.
There are many options from perforated and non-perforated to traditional adhesive-backed material or cling-like technologies like micro-suction. Each offers ease of install and removal for a store employee tasked with applying a graphic in one of the biggest spaces in a retail environment. The window serves as a first impression and graphics with a clean appearance are essential to attracting buyers.
Feb2019, Digital Output